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Associated Press: Biden Praises Unions For Keeping 'Barbarians Away From the Gate'

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Location: Las Vegas, NV


Associated Press: Biden Praises Unions For Keeping 'Barbarians Away From the Gate'

By KATHLEEN HENNESSEY

U.S. Sen. Joe Biden touted unions as defenders of the middle class and the "only thing that keeps the barbarians away from the gate," in a speech to an AFL-CIO group Saturday.

The Delaware Democrat, who is trying bring momentum to his second bid for the White House, railed against what he described as power hungry corporate America's disdain for organized labor.

"They've convinced themselves that not only are you, in fact, an obstacle in their path, they also think you're not smart enough to know what's in your own interest," Biden told the group in his third trip to Nevada, home to the second presidential caucus in the nation.

Organized labor is expected to be a major player in the state's Jan. 19 caucuses. Bucking a national trend, some Nevada unions have grown in number and influence along with the boom in the casino and construction industries.

Other Democratic hopefuls, including former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, are seen as better positioned to get union support. Still, Biden said Saturday he planned "to compete as hard as I can" for union endorsements in Nevada.

The senator criticized the Bush administration's trade policy.

"I'm not voting for another trade agreement under this administration," he said. "I'm not voting for another trade agreement, and I haven't in the last four years, that doesn't deal with the environment and labor conditions. Our trade policy is not supposed to reward people we exploit."

The senator did not name the specific agreements he planned to reject.

Biden said little could be done on domestic economic issues until the war in Iraq was ended. He dismissed President Bush's call for increased troop levels and said the diplomatic solutions proposed by his Democratic competitors wouldn't work.

The Iraqi government must allow regions to operate as decentralized, autonomous states, Biden said.

"I will bet my career on one simple proposition: There is no possibility in the lifetime of anyone in this room for there to be a strong central Democratic government in Iraq," he said.


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